Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Amuse-Bouche

I always admire a chef who serves an amuse-bouche to guests. The elements of confidence ("I'm going to serve you something I know you're going to like") and surprise are provocative, and create a level of interest and anticipation. The amuse-bouche also says, "I'm not too cheap to give you something for free." All salutary outcomes.

At home, for a special meal, I also enjoy serving an amuse-bouche. I find they are challenging exercises in concentrated flavor and, in particular, design. An amuse-bouche can neither bore the tongue nor the eye. It must excite -- and amuse! -- both. And in a very small package...an amuse-bouche should never contain more than one or two bites of food.

Recently, at a dinner in honor of international style maven Albano Daminato, I prepared an amuse-bouche, served cold, consisting of shaved roast pork and roasted red sweet pepper, maple candied shallots and a wee burst of white wine dijon mustard. I prepared these hours in advance and stored them in the fridge, on their small serving plates, so they were ready to plunk down. I thought they tasted great!

What's your favorite amuse-bouche to serve or receive? Have you ever had a bad amuse-bouche? Tell me about it in the comments!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I Cara Cara Lot

I'm not really one to keep a lot of fruit laying around the house -- generally a bunch of bananas is good enough for my morning yoghurt. I never seem to eat them before they spoil, and they attract those awful, annoying fruit flies! But a recent sugar imbalance-induced fainting spell inspired me to follow my friend Aphrodite's advice to eat more fruit, particularly before and after my daily workout.

Aphrodite suggested Cara Cara oranges, a navel variety that is available in the winter. I bought a few yesterday and must say, I do think they are tasty! The peel is a little difficult to remove -- coming off in bits and pieces instead of as a whole, like satsumas or tangerines. But the juicy, full-on citrus meat and juice are worth the small effort.

What fruit do you always have around the house? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Birthday to Paquie!

Tonight was my friend Brian's birthday and we went to Barrio for dinner -- it was a great choice! Our server was wonderful (Nicole) and always had everything when we needed it -- including a new basket of tortilla chips the very second we ate the last one on the first basket!

I enjoyed the braised pork enchilada with wilted spinach, caramelized onion-poblano rajas, jack cheese and tomatillo sauce ($14) and the side of cornbread with honey butter ($3.50). The pork in the enchiladas was just this side of carnitas-grade...still a bit wet to be called real carnitas but undeniably slow-cooked to a spectacular oblivion.

For dessert, we all split a plate of churros with a delicious molten chocolate dip. They kindly added a candle in honor of Paquie's 53rd birthday.

My favorite Mexican food in Seattle remains Malena's Taqueria up on Queen Anne, but Barrio is hands down the place to go for a more complex culinary feast from south of the border.

Happy birthday, Paquie!